Food Safety

Käserei Gloggnitz CEO Faces Criminal Charges for Listeria Outbreak, Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison

The CEO of Käserei Gloggnitz recently faced criminal charges for a Listeria outbreak linked to the firm’s dairy products and has been sentenced to 13 months in prison. This isn’t something you see often. In most cases, the company is held responsible and takes on the criminal charges in Listeria outbreaks and other foodborne outbreaks.

While this isn’t truly a record-breaking incident, it does show a trend of holding executives responsible for overt safety concerns. Particularly for those that result in significant illness and outbreaks.

Dairy Company CEO Faces Charges in Listeria Outbreak

Despite the 39-year-old executive being sentenced to 13 months in prison with multiple charges related to the Listeria outbreak, they have denied the allegations.

This verdict, however, is not final. According to reports, additional allegations against the dairy CEO will be heard next month at the Regional Court of Wiener Neustadt. Additional witnesses will be questioned, and sentencing could be potentially modified.

This case is based on a multi-year outbreak spanning 2020 to 2022 with at least ten cases and three deaths attributed to Käserei Gloggnitz dairy products.

A History of Compliance Deficiencies is Reason for Criminal Charges for Listeria Outbreak

An audit revealed persistent compliance deficiencies with dairy firm. This 2020 inspection revealed significant deficiencies. Another inspection in 2021 was much of the same.

It wasn’t until outbreak patients were connected to Käserei Gloggnitz’s dairy products in 2022 that any attention was given to the unsafe facility. Only then did the firm experience increased scrutiny and subsequent recall for their dairy products.

The Outbreak

The Käserei Gloggnitz Listeria outbreak was linked to 10 patients.

According to the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), this included one newborn, three men, and six women.

Adult ages ranged between 29 and 82 and were located in Vienna.

Dairy Product Recall Announced

The firm initiated a recall for their dairy products about two years after the initial outbreak cases were discovered. This was due to positive environmental samples obtained from the company’s Lower Austrian facility that matched the outbreak strain.

The outbreak strain was also detected in the dairy products manufactured at the facility.

This connection finally prompted action to address the contamination issue. Meanwhile, a recall was announced.

All kajmak (a type of cheese), drinking yogurt, and cream cheese products were recalled in September 2022.

Recall Lead to Financial Troubles, Causing Plant Closure

The financial consequences of the outbreak posed significant challenges for Käserei Gloggnitz. Eventual insolvency proceedings lead to the closure of the plant in 2023.

Facility closure does not mean that those who are liable cannot be held responsible. Next month will determine the ultimate fate of the Käserei Gloggnitz CEO facing criminal charges in the Listeria outbreak case.

Could These Charges Make Precedence?

Could the fate of Käserei Gloggnitz CEO’s prison sentence set precedence for making it more mainstream for executives to face jail time for their role in foodborne outbreaks?

Maybe.

The CEO of a prominent American company skated by with no jail time for criminal charges in the Listeria outbreak involving ice cream in 2015.

A Look at Blue Bell’s Criminal Case

Paul Kruse, CEO of Blue Bell at the time of the outbreak, faced criminal charges in the Listeria outbreak linked to listeriosis cases across four states in 2015.

At least 10 cases were linked to the outbreak. Three people died.

In the case against Kruse, prosecutors accused him of concealing what the company knew about the contamination of Blue Bell’s products.

In 2020, after a hung jury trial (where jurors were unable to reach a verdict), the case was set for retrial.

The CEO plead guilty to misdemeanor charges under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that imposes “liability without regard to intent or knowledge of the tainted products.”

A $100,000 fine was imposed. Under this agreement, certain fraud charges were dismissed and not jail time was imposed.

The Blue Bell company agreed to pay $19.35 million and plead guilty to charges of shipping contaminated products ultimately linked to the outbreak.

What is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes, commonly referred to as Listeria, is a pathogenic bacteria often associated with foodborne illness. An estimated 1,600 people become sick with Listeria infections each year, and about 260 of them die.

Certain groups of people are more likely to become sick with Listeria infection and often go on to experience more serious illness.

These high risk groups include:

  • People who are pregnant and their newborns
  • Adults aged 65 or older
  • People with weakened immune systems

Listeria Symptoms Vary

Listeria infections have a unique presentation. Symptoms differ between pregnant and non-pregnant people. They also fit into two different categories. Intestinal illness and invasive illness.

Intestinal illness primarily involves the digestive system. It usually includes symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea that usually begins within 24 hours of eating contaminated food and lasts around 3 days. Most of the time intestinal illness is mild, though some people may develop invasive illness.

Invasive illness occurs when the bacteria leave the digestive system and enter other parts of the body. These symptoms usually begin within 2 weeks of exposure.

Pregnant people with invasive Listeria illness often experience milder symptoms. Fever and flu-like symptoms are common. The major threat during pregnancy includes potential for miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

For those who are not pregnant, invasive Listeria illness feels a little different and includes symptoms such as fever, flue-like symptoms, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and/or seizures. These symptoms can be very severe. In fact, nearly 1 in 20 non-pregnant people with invasive Listeria infection die.

Want to Know More About Food Concerns in the News?

Would you like to know more about food concerns in the news, similar to Listeria outbreaks in the news? Check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more!

Contact the trusted Listeria lawyers at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC for a free consultation. Call (833) 330-3663 or click here to email.

Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (Contributing Writer, non-lawyer)

Heather Van Tassell

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